09/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Women of Color Can't Pull a Sarah Palin

My husband has often tried to convince me that men are simple to understand. For the most part, they are motivated by their sexual desires. Each time I try to argue with him otherwise, a man proves me wrong. This time it was Donny Deutsch.

This morning, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Donny Deutsch was a guest-anchor turned into mush. A man who just a month ago accused Palin of "manufactured outrage" during the Letterman debacle and criticized her for parading her family around during the 2008 presidential election, had a change of heart. No, Palin has not defected and become a Democrat, nor has she become more scholarly and well-reasoned in her discourse about government. Instead, it was a little rumor about Palin's pending divorce that turned Donny into a junior-high school boy with a crush. He expressed -- a number of times -- that he was going to cease with the aspersions and criticisms (despite how dead-on they are) because he would like a date with Palin. Donny may be on to cracking the mystery behind why white women advance where women of color don't.

What if white women are given preferences and breaks -- where women of color are not -- because white men are attracted to them? It's no secret that men don't check their sexual attraction to women at the office door. According to the NY Post article, "Lust for Life," 92 percent of male managers admitted to being physically attracted to the women they manage. Since white men still make up over 80 percent of the CEOs in Fortune 500s, they are in a position to create or stymie career opportunity. And since only 7 percent of marriages in 2005 were interracial (according to a Stanford University study), most white men are probably married to white women are most likely going to be more attracted to a white woman that a woman of color. As a result, when a white man is in a position of authority to provide promotion opportunities, dole out quality assignments, or allow someone to recover from mistakes, a white woman might get a pass where a woman of color will not.

When we apply this theory to the legal profession, it helps to explain the clear disparities between the advancements of white women and women of color. Ten years ago, women only made up only a handful of law firm partners. Today, women now make up 17 percent of partners and they are one of the fastest growing groups to attain partnership. To their credit, women have been very clear in demanding help, and as a result law firms have created a number of initiatives to support women's advancement, such as professional development initiatives, women's committees and other similar programs. However, these initiatives are mostly helping white women. Their counterparts of color are left in the dust, making up only 1.84 percent of partners. How could this be?

Some experts surmise that white women have an advantage that women of color don't; they share race with white male partners -- the ostensible decision makers. However, after watching Donny this morning, I would go one step further and posit that white women also have the advantage that white men are probably more attracted to. Beyond the structured women's development programs, there are probably white male partners giving additional feedback and critical support to white women -- all in the name of hormones and attraction.